Friday, June 20, 2008

Another American Hero Lost

America lost another hero today. A man who served his country with honor and distinction. A man who went to hell and back to defend our freedom and the freedom and liberty of others. A true member of the Greatest Generation, yet few if any knew.

This story is like many others I've heard over the past few years. A World War II veteran dies and while the family is going through their personal belongings, talking to friends or something a whole different side of the individual is revealed. A history no one knew of not even their closest family or friends. One of the more famous illustrations of this is John Bradley, a Navy Corpsman who helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima. A moment captured on film in Joe Rosenthal's famous picture.

John Bradley's son was so taken by the stories he uncovered about his father that following his death he wrote the book Flags of Our Fathers, which was later turned into a movie by Clint Eastwood. Men like John Bradley weren't seeking glory or medals or accolades. They did their job for their own reasons. And when the war was over, they came home and went about their lives.

Such is the story of a man I know from my home town. His name was Reed Potter Sr and he was 83 yrs old. I didn't know him well, probably only met him in person a few times, but I never heard a bad thing about the man. Vic's family knew him quite well, attending church with Reed and his family and playing softball with his daughters for years.

Yesterday Reed died in a car accident near his home in Kentucky. I don't know the cause yet, but I did learn a little about his past, as did a lot of people from my home town.

Reed Potter was a member of the 82nd Airborne in World War II.
- He was part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
- He was part of Operation Market Garden (immortalized by the movie A Bridge Too Far)
- He was part of the historic defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge
- He was wounded twice, receiving two purple hearts.
- He was awarded five (5) Bronze Stars for his actions in combat.

When I heard this I was floored. How many soldiers earn 5 Bronze Stars? How many earn 5 Bronze Stars and live to tell the tale? My grandfather earned 1 in World War I, but 5? Wow!! Apparently his family knew nothing of his exploits until he was interviewed recently by a PBS affiliate in Kentucky. If not for that interview, none of us may have known the history and legacy of this man.

I don't have any of the details regarding Reed's awards or his actions during the war, but I will try to find out. I'm betting there's a story there we could all learn from and could serve as a lesson for younger generations.

Our thoughts are prayers are with his family tonight.

Fare Winds and Following Seas Reed Potter.

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